Week Adjourned: 4.28.17 – Uber, VW, Audi, Hard Rock Cafe

Top Class Action Lawsuits

I always feel like…Uber is watching me…? Uber just can’t seem to stay out of court these days. This week they got hit with a privacy class action lawsuit brought by Lyft drivers who assert that Uber used “secret” software to spy on them, allegedly allowing Uber to see Lyft’s coverage areas and which drivers worked for both ride share companies.

Allegedly referred to internally by Uber as “Hell”, the software enables Uber personnel to gain unauthorized access to Lyft computer systems, pose as Lyft customers and see the locations of Lyft drivers and their unique Lyft identification, according to the complaint.

Filed by a former driver for Lyft, Michael Gonzales, against three related companies, Uber Technologies Inc., Uber USA LLC and Rasier-CA, the lawsuit seeks to represent Gonzales and other Lyft drivers whose electronic communications and locations were allegedly intercepted, accessed, monitored or transmitted by Uber.

According to the Uber privacy lawsuit, “Each Lyft ID is unique, akin to a Social Security number, which allowed Uber to track Lyft drivers’ locations over time.” Uber used the “Hell” software program from at least 2014 to 2016, the lawsuit asserts.

Uber allegedly cross-referenced location data it gathered on Lyft drivers with its own internal records to determine which drivers were working for both companies so it could target them “in order to improve the Uber platform and harm the Lyft platform,” the complaint states. “Uber accomplished this by incentivizing drivers working on both platforms to work primarily for Uber, thereby reducing the supply of Lyft drivers, which resulted in increased wait times for Lyft customers and diminished earnings for Lyft drivers.”

Allegedly, Uber would direct “more frequent and more profitable trips” to drivers who it knew were also working for Lyft, thereby encouraging those drivers to primarily work for Uber, the complaint alleges.

Gonzales worked as driver for Lyft from 2012 to 2014 but never worked for Uber, according to the complaint. He seeks to represent a national class and a California class of drivers.

The proposed national class is defined in the complaint as “all individuals in the United States who (1) worked as drivers for Lyft, (2) while not working for Uber, and (3) whose private information and whereabouts was obtained by Uber by accessing computer systems operated or used by Lyft and the class.” The proposed California class is defined identically, except for removing the words “in the United States.”

According to the complaint, public reports estimate some 315,000 people have driven for Lyft in the United States, and 60 percent of them may have also driven for Uber. As such, the number of members in the proposed national class may be in excess of 126,000, while “common sense dictates that thousands of those individuals are California residents,” the proposed lawsuit states.

The proposed class action claims violations of the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the California Unfair Competition Law and seeks injunctive relief and damages for the alleged privacy invasion.

The case is Michael Gonzales v. Uber Technologies Inc. et al, case number 3:17-cv-02264, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Top Settlements

It’s a Record Settlement—and it’s Official. A $2.1 billion settlement has received final approval, ending the massive Canadian Volkswagen (VW) emissions scandal class action caused by VW and Audi vehicles fitted with the now infamous defeat device, which allowed VW and Audi to cheat emissions standards testing.

According to a report in the Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, members of a Canadian class action can submit claims for reimbursement this week, as an Ontario court has approved a $2.1 billion settlement plan.

Some 105,000 people who either purchased or leased certain Volkswagen or Audi vehicles with two-litre diesel engines that were involved in the emissions scandal will each receive a payment between $5,100 and $8,000, according to the written judgment by Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba.

Additionally, many class members will be able to choose whether to return their vehicle at the buy-back price as of mid-September 2015, before knowledge of the defeat device was made public, or keep their car and receive an emissions modification that is approved by government regulators, according to the Canadian VW settlement.

This settlement, however, may not be the end of the litigation. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs said that if emissions modifications for any of the vehicles are not approved and implemented around summer 2018, and the owner chooses not to return their vehicle, they can choose to continue litigation. If enough such owners come forward, the court may choose to hear the case again as a class action lawsuit.

Currently, US regulatory authorities are evaluating fixes Volkswagen has provided for three generations of affected VW and Audi vehicles.

Another biggie this week… The Hard Rock enterprises has agreed to pony up a $51.5 settlement ending a consumer fraud class action lawsuit brought by the buyers of a Hard Rock Cafe condo-hotel complex and the company who alleged the developers of the condo hotel units violated land sale regulations. Get outta town!

According to the terms of the Hard Rock settlement, each class member would receive a payment of approximately $95K. Court fees and costs would also be paid from the settlement fund. The developer, Tarsadia Hotels, would contribute $10 million and third-party defendant Greenberg Traurig LLC would put in the remaining $41.15 million.

In May 2010, Laurie and Dean Beaver filed a lawsuit against the Hard Rock Café condo-hotel consortium, alleging the defendants failed to inform them that they could rescind their property purchases within two years of their signing date.

Development began on The Hard Rock San Diego in 2005. It is a 12-story building with 420 condo-hotel units located across the street from the San Diego Convention Center and a few blocks from the San Diego Marina and Seaport Village, according to court documents.

The proposed settlement requires final court approval.

The case is Dean Beaver et al. v. Tarsadia Hotels et al., case number 15-55106, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.



Ok – That’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 4.7.17 – Volkswagen, Audi, iOS, Halliburton

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Heads Up Volkswagen and Audi Owners! The automakers got hit with a proposed defective automotive class action lawsuit this week, over allegations they were aware of an engine defect in certain models, which they concealed and which resulted in thousands of dollars in damages to vehicles owners. Know this playbook?

Filed in federal court, the proposed lawsuit states that VW and Audi concealed a defect with the timing chain in certain vehicles built between 2008 and 2013. According to the complaint, the timing chain system is meant to operate normally for at least 120,000 miles, however, the alleged defect caused the timing chain to fail at any time prior to that, causing the vehicles to lose engine power and the ability to accelerate, maintain speed, control steering or fully engage the brakes, putting them at risk of rear-end crashes.

The VW and Audi complaint states that repairing the defect costs $1,200 at a minimum, but can reach $10,000 and involve replacing the entire engine.

The four named plaintiffs, Lloyd Artola, Angel Esquijarosa, Demetrie Hylick and Michael Spencer, are seeking to represent anyone who owned or leased certain Volkswagen or Audi vehicles with the alleged defect. They seek to establish two classes of plaintiffs, a nationwide class and a Florida subclass. The vehicles named in the complaint include various models of Volkswagen Beetles, Golfs, Jettas, Passats, Rabbits, Routans, Tiguans and Touaregs, as well as Audi A3s, A4s, A5s, A6s, A7s, Q3s, Q5s and Q7s.

Named plaintiff Artola claims he paid $6,700 to have his 2011 Audi Q5 repaired when the defect caused severe engine damage at 75,000 miles. Audi agreed to waive the cost of the repair after “much effort,” the complaint states.

Esquijarosa experienced similar trouble after the 2010 Volkswagen CC Sport, which he bought in 2013 from his daughter, suffered catastrophic engine failure at 38,000 miles. It cost him about $4,000 to repair. According to the complaint, “after much effort,” Volkswagen agreed to split the cost.

Hylick bought a used 2010 Volkswagen CC. The defect caused severe engine damage when the vehicles reached about 89,000 miles, costing the plaintiff $8,800 to repair. Spencer bought a used 2009 Volkswagen Passat, which failed to start when the vehicle reached 59,300. He spent $3,300 to have it fixed. Volkswagen refused to reimburse him, the complaint states.

The case is Artola et al. v. Aktiengesellschaft et al., case number 1:17-cv-21296, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Top Settlements

iOS Privacy Settlings…? More spooky stuff. This week, several major tech companies agreed to a $5.3 million settlement deal that, if approved, would end a privacy class action lawsuit accusing the companies of accessing the address book of iOS users without permission. Not surprised by these types of allegations anymore… sadly.

If court approval is granted, Foodspotting, Foursquare, Gowalla, Instagram, Kik, Path, Twitter and Yelp will share in creating the settlement fund which will pay out an estimated 0.53 cents per user, to more than 7 million users.

The lawsuit was filed in 2012 and alleges the tech and social media companies, through their services, used “unconscionable, illegal practices” in accessing contacts belonging to users without the users’ consent. The plaintiffs assert that this is equivalent to the contacts being “accessed and stolen.”

The lawsuit was brought following publicity around reported breaches of privacy. The Federal Trade Commission also investigated the charges, which resulted in an $800,000 settlement with the social network app Path over its practices. A settlement hearing will be held on May 25. If approved, the settlement would apply primarily to iOS users whose address books were accessed and contacts were viewed by the defendants, without permission, between 2010 and February 2012.

Settlement payments will be made to class members via the Amazon accounts of those affected, unless they request payment in the form of a check. Any unclaimed funds from the settlement will be given to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Ten Years After… Here’s one for the books. Already record-setting, this week a decade of litigation may have reached its end, with a $100 million settlement receiving preliminarily approval. The defendant is Haliburton, and the securities class action lawsuit centered around the company’s liability in its disclosure of asbestos use.

Not only has litigation of this lawsuit taken a decade but it has also included two trips to the US Supreme Court. If granted final approval, the $100 million settlement will effectively end one of the longest running securities fraud class actions in US courts, according to a copy of the settlement papers.

The lawsuit was filed in 2002, by a Milwaukee charitable organization that held Halliburton stock under its Erica P. John Fund as well as other plaintiffs. The lawsuit alleged Halliburton’s disclosure of a $30 million verdict stemming from asbestos liabilities sent the company’s stock price plummeting by 40 percent. The company’s stock prices were artificially inflated, the lawsuit claimed, resulting from misstatements issued about its financial liability for asbestos claims.

Chief US District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn scheduled a settlement fairness hearing to take place at the end of July. Additionally, a deadline of August 12 has been set for any class members who want to participate in the settlement to submit a claim form.

The case is Erica P. John Fund Inc. v. Halliburton Co., case number 3:02-cv-01152, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. 

Ok…That’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 8.6.10

Top Class Actions

Could Say He was Over his Overdraft Fees. I think these guys deserve a Business As Usual, As Usual award. Commerce Bancshares, a Kansas City-based financial institution operating simply as Commerce Bank in the state of Missouri is being sued by a client who claims the company’s bank overdraft fees violate state law.

The plaintiff, Harold J. Joseph Jr., has accused the banking chain of manipulating the sequence of debit card purchases in an attempt to maximize the number and size of overdraft fees that they can impose. 

Any of this sound familiar? Excessive bank overdraft fees lawsuits have been filed and/or settled against a variety of banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, M&T Bank and Wachovia. The lawsuits allege that banks charge excessive overdraft fees when customers’ accounts go into overdraft. They further allege that the banks use a number of unethical practices to push their accounts into overdraft, such as misrepresenting customers’ account balances and reordering debits and credits to accounts.

New regulations that will take effect by mid-August seek to rectify this problem by making overdraft protection an opt-in service and by regulating the terms of the action.

FYI: Information about Commerce Bancshares second quarter earnings were posted in a press release July 21. Those of you hit with excessive overdraft fees may find the numbers interesting…”Commerce Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 8.6.10”